U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration and President-elect Joe Biden both voiced new alarm Thursday about a wide intrusion into computer systems around the world that officials suspect was carried out by Russia.
The cybersecurity unit of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said the hack "poses a grave risk to the federal government and state, local, tribal and territorial governments, as well as critical infrastructure entities and other private sector organizations."
New reports Thursday said the U.S. Department of Energy and Microsoft were among places affected by the hack. The U.S. Treasury and Commerce departments were the first to be identified.
Thursday's assessment by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) was the most pointed since news of the intrusion emerged last weekend.
The cybersecurity unit warned that removing the malware inserted into the network software would be “highly complex and challenging.”
The Energy Department said the attack had affected only its business networks.
"At this point, the investigation has found that the malware has been isolated to business networks only and has not impacted the mission essential national security functions of the department," spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes said in a statement.
Reuters reported Thursday that private tech giant Microsoft was also affected by the hack but could not confirm the extent of the damage.
Biden, set to be inaugurated as the 46th U.S. president on January 20, said, “There’s a lot we don’t yet know, but what we do know is a matter of great concern.”
Biden said he had “instructed my team to learn as much as we can about this breach” and praised career government civil servants “who are working around the clock to respond to this attack.”
He vowed that after he assumes power, “my administration will make cybersecurity a top priority at every level of government, and we will make dealing with this breach a top priority from the moment we take office.”
Biden said he would strengthen the government’s cybersecurity partnerships with the private sector.
Republican Senator Mitt Romney on Thursday slammed the Trump administration for its response, calling it an “inexcusable silence and inaction from the White House.”
“The cyber hack is like Russian bombers have been repeatedly flying undetected over our entire country,” Romney wrote in a statement posted on Twitter.
December 17, 2020
The FBI and other agencies have scheduled a briefing Friday on the security concerns with members of Congress.
CISA said it was continuing to investigate the attacks. Robert O'Brien, U.S. national security adviser, cut short an international trip this week to return to Washington in the wake of the investigations.